Will Apple Learn from Steve Jobs' Second Close Call?

There seem to be two schools of thought about Steve Jobs: One holds that Apple has proved itself capable of living without him. The other says that Jobs is returning, apparently with a spiffy new liver, just in time. Both assessments are correct.

I don't think Apple really proved very much during the six months he's been gone, but the experience has nevertheless strengthened the company.

After all, everything that Apple has done during Jobs' absence was presumably planned well in advance, though the timing of the iPhone 3G S release might have been tweaked to hurt the Palm Pre launch.

It's doubtful that any new product initiatives were launched without Jobs' explicit OK. In real life, the Jobs' touch is likely to be imprinted on Apple's product releases for at least 24 months after he departs, whenever that occurs.

Still, Apple did prove itself capable of doing both a WWDC and a major product launch without Jobs making the announcements himself. Tim Cook and Phil Schiller proved themselves capable of, well, doing their jobs even without their Jobs' peering over their shoulders. Hardly surprising, but nice to know, nevertheless.

We always suspected there was a bunch of smart people behind-the-scenes at Apple. It was nice, during Jobs' absence, to see them get more of the spotlight.

Something makes me want to compare running Apple without Jobs for the past half-year as being akin to riding with training wheels: There was only a limited amount of trouble the company could get into.

Still, most kids started with training wheels and this experience has been useful, maybe even transforming, for Apple.

The post-transplant Apple may be a more collegial place now that the kids have proven themselves able to fend for themselves without Daddy Steve around. I hope this continues and we see a more of the Apple brain trust in the future than the company has presented to us in the past.

Apple should probably invest in several of these new stars, readying them to present parts of the business after the day when Jobs doesn't return.

This illness has been a second wake-up call for Apple. The company treated his cancer surgery almost as though it never took place. This leave-of-absence has been impossible to hide, though Apple certainly did its best.

I've read differing accounts of Jobs' prognosis post-transplantation. I'll choose to believe the happy ones, but prudence should inform Apple execs and shareholders than after two close calls, well…

Apple hasn't announced a definite return date for Jobs, what he will do when he returns, or even acknowledged the nature of his illness, though the "hormonal imbalance" description has become inoperative since the transplant reports surfaced over the weekend.

Most executives don't live out their health crises amid such publicity and speculation, but few executives are as closely identified with their companies as Steve Jobs and Apple. It will be good to have him back.

David Coursey tweets as techinciter and can be e-mailed using the form at www.coursey.com/contact.

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